Sean Penn is in negotiations to star in Cartel, a drama that Asger Leth is directing for Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment. Brian Grazer is producing.

According to Variety, the mission movie was scripted by Peter Craig, and follows Ed Marker as he journeys to protect his son after his wife is brutally murdered in the gritty world of Mexican cartels.

The drama took root at Imagine as a remake of 1993 Italian film La scorta, which followed four cops' struggle to guard a special prosecutor trying to bring mob bosses to justice. It evolved into an action vehicle for Penn.

The studio and Imagine want to get the picture into production by summer. Start date won't be firmed until Penn's deal is made.